The search goes on with ever more seriousness to push the boundaries of technology into sellable lifestyle devices and enterprising schools (even some primaries) are encouraging and rewarding creative innovation in youngsters who have no preconceptions, just ground-breaking ideas.
The technology world encourages the rapid absorption of all that has gone on before, the science; and urges new mutations into uncharted possibilities, the arts.
That is the way to wealth for some, and survival for most in the future.
We Still Need Human Attributes
The human animal is a touch-driven creature, our senses finely tuned to ‘read’ things by touching. Shaking hands conveys all sort of societal signals from greeting to peace, agreement to politeness.
Push button technology is second nature, an extension of scratching, slapping or beckoning for human beings. The smartphone unlocking databases and even doors is now commonplace and unremarkable. Touch technology relies on human connectivity (a cold finger doesn’t work too well on a touch screen), so what? Now transmission of all kinds of data by simply touching has already been taken for granted and we’re asking, ‘so what’s the next thing?”.
With 3D display technology and near field communication (NFC), already so ‘last year’ in terms of development, the arrival of total touch technology (TTT), to remove any remaining barriers to touch being the unique key to absolutely every lockable situation or event , is imminent.
Games are part of the socio-economic fabric of contemporary life and huge business, with the Wii, to name the current video game console market leader capable of hand-held pointing control, detecting movement in three dimensions and updating in standby mode. Nobody any longer bats an eyelid about what it can do. It has become as much part of life as an electric kettle.
Ericsson’s ‘Connect Me’ system is still in development but has reached ‘the proof of concept’ stage. They call touching an object ‘capacitive coupling’, in which for example, two aluminum contacts are touched to transmit music to speakers. Very simple and unremarkable, but it’s the future application that is exciting, balancing they believe ‘convenience and security’. It should remove the possibility of any data compromise, which is a weakness with near field communication where somebody also nearby can hack in.
Many tech companies devise and make touch devices, as they compete to grab more and more of the massive market. Take just one, GestureTek, describing themselves as ‘world leaders in computer vision control’ created interactive multi-touch surface computing technology with ‘motion sensing gesture control’ that lets users navigate interactive content. This, on a floating panel, or multimedia kiosk (or equally on any interactive table, window or touch screen). The system reacts to every finger point or hand movement. Sounds almost quaint in his prehistoric descriptors.
Again, nothing remarkable about that. However, it just illustrates how the commercial exploitation of a concept has become an entire business in its own right in a very short time. The invitations to the chosen few who received them to the new Apple iPad launch said: ‘We have something you really have to see. And touch’. Seeing and touching have become synonymous.
Multitouch Is Old Hat
Multitouch has been available for years, mainly relating to a surface capable of recognising two or more points of contact and harnessing complex logarithms to transmit data. Early experiments in the 1960s were done on synthesizers and electronic instruments with touch-sensitive capacitive sensors to make and manipulate music.
The Mitsubishi Diamond Touch (2001) device was a multi-touch computer and since then the technology has become ubiquitous. The human-machine interface is a frontier constantly being pushed further and further until there are no surprises left. Probably.
The Feb/March 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona saw 67,000 people exchange views and news on ‘how the world is redefining mobile’. Along with the usual exhibitions, app exploration, industry awards and networking, there was focus on accelerating the use of ‘mobile as a marketing medium’ in the ‘mobile ecosystem’.
It is clear from the agenda and the demonstrations, showcase theatre events and sharing of technologies and insights, that mobile and app-focused evolution is the way to go as they combine devices and exploit technology to the max including touch transmission.
That is essential if the future jobs, innovation and solutions to global problems are to be realised from technology. The next step is ‘total think contact-less technology’ (TTCT). And that is already on the way too.
Erik Kain writes about ‘tech policy, nerd culture and the future’ and reported in the business magazine Forbes, Feb 2012, about the future of touchscreen technology, citing a video produced by The Astonishing Tribe (TAT).
He quoted from TAT’s blog: ‘Capacitive screen technology is now taking the next leap and the coming years imagination is the only thing stopping us. We will soon have dual screens, malleable screens, screens built into wifi connected mirrors, desks or backside of gadgets clothed with e-ink screens, tactile feedback, colour screens, colour e-ink touch screens or screens actually knowing where they are in relation to other screens thanks to ultrasonic emitters and microphones’.
Kain said what he liked about the video and predictions was that already much of it was coming true after less than two years. It’s worth watching, not to be amazed because we have already absorbed and discounted such wizardry, but to reminded us of change’s speed.
Adapt to it and survive. Or not. That seems to be our choice, if we are able to do it.